Verbs: The Future Seen From The Past - Английский язык с Марией Батхан.

Verbs: The Future Seen From The Past

Verbs: The Future Seen From The Past


The Future in the Past is used to talk about something that was the future at some moment in the past (usually in reported speech).


The Future in the past is used in a subordinate clause after such verbs as: to say, to tell, to hope, to believe, to know, etc. in the past tense.


The most commonly used forms of the Future in the Past are:


1.   Would + bare infinitive (Future Simple in the Past) is used to express a promise or an intention to do something, or to predict something.


I knew you would get promoted as you’re the best company employee.

He said he would (he’d) make dinner and do the dishes.

The captain promised that the team would do their best to win the game.


Negative form: would + not + bare infinitive

She knew that her brother would not (wouldn’t) help her.


Passive voice:

The doctor told the patient that the medicine should be taken every morning after a meal.


2.   Was/were going to + infinitive is used to talk about the plans that never happened.


The father reminded her that he was not going to pick up the kids from school today.

The boy was going to tell his parents the truth about the broken vase, but he was afraid to confess.

She said that she was going to bring a friend to the bar with her, so we took a bigger table.


3.   Was/were + doing is used to express a personal future arrangement made at a certain moment in the past.


He was nervous as he was not having a driving test tomorrow, as it was rescheduled for next week.

Lucy had to finish all the work as she was leaving for a cruise next Monday.

They were cooking several meals as all their relatives were coming for dinner.  


4.   Would + be + doing (Future continuous in the past) means that something would last for some time in the future as seen from the past. We can’t use passive voice with this form.


I knew that I would miss the game because I would be practicing playing the piano at that time the following day.

I was upset because Alex would not be helping me with my homework.

Julia was so excited because she would be celebrating her birthday in Crimea together with her best friends the following Friday.


Rarely used forms of Future in the Past are:


5.   Would + have + done (Future Perfect in the past) is used to show that the action referring to the future, but seen from the past, has been completed.


We hoped that we would have finished the project by Thursday, but everyone had fallen ill.

He argued with Thomas that she wouldn’t have prepared his suit on time as she’s the slowest housekeeper ever.

I was sure that the groceries would have been bought according to the list.


6.   Would + have + been doing (Future Perfect Continuous) points to a prolonged action in the future, which would last till a certain moment as seen from the past. There can be no passive voice with this form.


He said that he would have been living in Saint-Petersburg for five years this summer.

Jayne said that she would have been working at McDonald’s for two years next month.


Other ways to express Future in the past are:

Was to do (is to do in the past) or was due to do ( is due to do in the past) mean “supposed to or expected to do something”.

The students were to make their presentations in front of the whole examination board.

I was due to bring markers, paper, scissors and pencils, but I forgot.


Was/Were about to do (is/are about to do something in the past) means that something was going to happen very soon.

We arrived just as the procedure was about to begin.


 Pay attention that NO FUTURE form can go with time expressions: when, after, as soon as, before, if, unless, by the time and so on. In this case we must use a verb in the past tense.